Esittely

The strange bird Richard, the organist George and his bulldog Dan – Edward Elgar's circle of friends is immortalised in his Enigma Variations.

Piracy, love and religion are the ingredients of Ethel Smyth’s psychological drama The Wreckers. The strange bird Richard, the stuttering beauty Dorabella, the cathedral organist George and his bulldog Dan – Edward Elgar's circle of friends are immortalised in the composer's Enigma Variations. But whose portrait is the 13thvariation, at the beginning of which Elgar wrote three enigmatic asterisks?

Ethel Smyth: Overture to the opera The Wreckers

Ethel Smyth (1858–1944) was a British composer of both orchestral and chamber music, solo songs and operas. She suffered from many of the prejudices against women composers, though her opera Der Wald was the first by a woman ever to enter the repertoire of the New York Metropolitan. Some said her music was “too masculine”, but she was an ardent feminist and an active suffragette who spent two months in prison. The libretto of The Wreckers was originally in French but translated into English for the first London performance in 1909. It tells of the villagers – the wreckers – in the English county of Cornwall who wrecked ships by putting out the lighthouse beacon during storms to lead ships onto the rocks. They then killed the sailors and shared out the cargo. The priest’s wife begins an illicit affair with a young fisherman, but they are caught by the lighthouse keeper and left to drown on the incoming tide.

Edward Elgar: Enigma Variations, Op. 36

Returning one evening, exhausted, from his job as a teacher and violinist, Edward Elgar (1857–1934) sat idly toying with a theme he had just invented, and it occurred to him to vary it in ways that capture the characteristic feature of a friend or relative. Encouraged by his wife, he later arranged them as a piece for orchestra called The Enigma Variations. It was a tremendous success and marked the turning point in his career.

Each variation is thus a portrait of persons whose names are mentioned in the score either as initials (e.g., W.N. = Winifred Norbury) or by a pseudonym (e.g., Nimrod = August Jaeger, Elgar’s publisher). His wife is there (C.A.E. = Caroline Alice Elgar) and so is he (E.D.U. = his wife’s pet name for him, Eduard). But Elgar also loved musical riddles: enigmas, and announced that the theme of the variations was a counter-melody or accompaniment to a well-known tune. He never revealed what this was, but theories abound.

 

Joonas Pitkänen

Joonas Pitkänen, born in 1986, is a Finnish conductor residing in Basel, Switzerland. He attained his cello soloist diploma and graduated in Basel in 2013. Subsequently, in 2016, he earned his Master's degree in orchestral conducting in Würzburg.

In 2023, Pitkänen won the 1st prize in the Città  de Brescia – Giancarlo Facchinetti conducting competition and received a distinction in the 11th Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors.

The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra holds a special place in Pitkänen’s heart. This sentiment is rooted not only in the fact that his father played in the orchestra but also because of the unique, profound string sounds the orchestra produces. Pitkänen expresses his humility at having the opportunity to do Elgar's Enigma Variations with them.

Pitkänen is a LEAD! artist, and the co-founder and Artistic Director of the Finnish concert series Feeling Blue & White in Basel. Since 2017, Joonas Pitkänen has been the Principal Conductor of the Akademisches Orchester Freiburg and has conducted the Stadtorchester Zug since 2021.

Taiteilijat

Joonas Pitkänen
conductor

Ohjelma

    13:00
    Ethel Smyth
    The Wreckers, overture
    14:00
    Edward Elgar
    Enigma Variations
Matinee
Musiikkitalo Concert Hall
Joonas Pitkänen
Ethel Smyth
The Wreckers, overture
Edward Elgar
Enigma Variations